TECHNIQUES of Encaustic Art    Return to HOME PAGE of www.encaustic,com     Visit one of our sponsor sites   
Iron,  Stylus & Hobby Crafts Methods Assemble a mini hotplate using the encaustic painting iron Hotplate Techniques Zone Hot Air Methods Zone Finer Art Approaches for Encaustic work

Show Demo - an overview of simple iron & wax techniques
This step by step demonstration will explain everything that you need to get started with encaustic art

Test the iron's heat - set it to LOW (= nylon)

Use the No.8 Bluegreen wax colour to test the iron's correct temperature. This colour should run slowly down the face of the iron, eventually about half way. If it runs fast the iron is too hot so turn it down and try again a couple of minutes

This is how it should look, but not like the yellow in the next picture. It is vital to use the No.8 Bluegreen Wax Block colour (in this range) because it has a strong and viscous body so it is the ideal testing colour - same colour as the iron pretty much!


Different Colours have varying liquidity

Darker colours are generally thicker than the lighter ones so watch and try to learn about the different qualities of each colour. Thinner ones are runnier.
...for more
up to top

Loading the Iron for the First Abstract Experiment

...hold the iron comfortably in your working hand which you can rest on the table surface to keep it steady and level. Select your coloured wax block and simply melt it onto the upturned baseplate - keep the iron level though and don't be mean - use plenty. Work in bands to begin with so that the colours remain clean and not overmixed when you spread them onto the card.

Once the iron is fully loaded (that is enough for one A6 card (about postcard size) you are ready to work it onto the painting card, so make sure that you have one ready in place on top of some disposable scrap paper.

up to top

If you are right handed then place the waxed surface of the iron over the left section of the card, so that the wax colour is deposited onto the card (not the disposable paper). Then gently smooth along the card without pressing - almost floating the iron over the liquid wax - remember, you are trying to leave a clean coating of wax on the card.
Smooth the iron right the way off the final edge of the card. Slow speed and a light touch yield fairly smooth results whilst a faster action will create texture. If there are any gaps just go over it all again without adding any more wax, however, if it looks scratchy and dirty then it is time to add more wax and build up the layer.
Place the iron down over the middle of the waxed card then after a second or two to melt the underlying wax lift it directly upward and off the card. The resulting "suction effect" is one of the key iron markings later used in landscape and adds fascination and detail to any abstract work too.
up to top
Turn the iron handle in towards your non-working hand, so that it is at a 45degree angle and the rounded iron's edge rests on the waxed card. Now, like an ice-skate cut through the surface of the wax colours. The hot edge will remelt any wax it meets and leave a line behind. Ice skates make thin lines but snow ploughs push sideways and make thick paths.
The point is the finest part of the iron's shape and is therefor the best bit to use for adding finest details and thinnest lines. Just tip the iron forward so it rests lightly on the tip of the iron, then move it around as you wish. Try some scribbles at first.
up to top
Absorbency of paper compared to Encaustic Art Card
Notice that the wax can be moved around on the surface of the card and removed if required. But look at the absorbent disposable paper and you will see that it becomes saturated by the passage of wax over it. You should use the sealed painting card if you want to be able to reworked and change anything - my advice is use it!

Instantly cool (but never technically dry!)
The wax takes a short time to cool - normally about 10 seconds, but if you are going to polish it then make sure that it really has reformed into a solid - or you'll wipe the wax off and discover that you work has disappeared!

...but always reworkable on the sealed encaustic card
Now that you have been introduced to the four main effects - Smoothing, Lifting, Edge and Point work, it is time to show you just how malleable and reworkable this particular encaustic art wax block product can be.
Start or rather restart by smoothing the iron over the existing wax card. up to top

...make some interesting "mess"
Well that should be easy at the beginning - funny as it may sound, the people who struggle most with this are usually painters.

Anyway, carry on playing around until your mess is at some point a "pleasing mess" - then instantly stop - that's it....

This could be the final artwork, or....
...not, it is going to be totally up to you to choose. You know they say that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Well in this type of creative work you are both creator and beholder - so what do you recognise as beautiful? My best advice to stop as soon as you see something that you like, because once it has passed it it gone for ever. up to top

Remelt the abstract image once again and continue...
...of course, you may later decide that you don't want that particular result any longer, so just remelt it and off you go again - art can be a transient thing and as your eye develops a stronger insight into what you find of interest and beauty then what was once something you were happy with and pleased by can become dated and outmoded... (hello fashion!)

Wriggle Patterning
Learning patterns teaches control - control is skill - skill is craftsmanship, and art, says the dictionary, is "skill with imagination" so try to learn some skills as you go along.
Place the iron on the card and wriggle the tip about 2cm from side to side as you slowly move the iron down the card - leaving a trail of wriggle effects.

Rattle Patterning
The rattle is much harder to explain because you have to rock the iron using the point as a fulcrum and allowing it all to happen in a loose and wild manner. It is easier to see live (like on the video)
up to top

Shuffle Patterning
The shuffle is easy enough to do. Place the iron on the card and shunt it backwards and forwards moving slowly down the card towards yourself. You should get a trail of marks left behind.
where ever the iron touches the wax will melt and change could now stop here
A patterned card can be a beautiful piece of artwork. You can stop at this point and it is wise to choose a result before all the colours get stirred into a uniform brown or purple. However, even if that happens there are things to save the day...

If you choose to stop here then it is time to polish the wax artwork and decide what it's purpose will be - greetings card, home decor or gallery artwork?


up to top

..or carry on - but what if you overmix the colours?
No problem!
It happens to us all - like a bad hair day - too much stirring around, wrong colour choices or whatever! So what to do about it? Well you can always remove the offending wax...

Tissue wiping pad ready to remove the heated wax
Get a tissue like you have been using to clean the iron or polish the wax artwork

Prepare it into a pad that is comfortable in your hand, then pass the iron over the waxed card a couple of times slowly, so that the wax remelts and stays warm. Then....

Pick up the tissue pad and gently but firmly wipe the dirty wax off. If you do the top third to half of your card you can create a simple but effective landscape from the remnants of the dirty card....

up to top

Half clean half dirty = sky and land
Simple really isn't it?

  • the top half is light and represents the sky
  • the bottom half is darker and represents the land mass
  • the meeting line between acts as the horizon line.

Lift & dab for foliage texture (suction effect)
If you bend the card and do a lifted dabbing action then you can avoid the iron's top edge touching the wax and thus avoid leaving iron shapes all over the foreground.

up to top

This is a big technical step forward from constant iron or "arc" marks all over the place, and adds to the natural appearance of the foreground significantly - it is worth persevering with this particular technique.
The resulting 3 band landscape now consists of a wiped sky, which also left the horizon line shape, and then a foreground that includes the texturing created by the lifting "suction" effect.

Edge of the iron for grasses (thin lines)
Using the iron's edge (like before) run it through the waxed card to leave a collection of bunched thin lines that can represent our grasses. These grow in the foreground, so start them well down the card.

up to top

Tip of the iron for finest iron details (bird)
To finish off this simple introductory exercise just dip the tip of the iron into a block of wax - try a mix of one dip into the No.23 Olive green and another quick one into No.14 Yellow brown. This mixes into a dark brown and is nice a fluid to flow off the iron's tip easily. So first make a spot, then flick it outwards with the now cleaned tip to form wings - rather like clock hands at 12 minutes to 3

...maybe it's time to take a rest here now!
At last, give the final image that has traveled through chaotic and patterned abstract as well as being a total write-off mess into this eventual, restful and very easy to make landscape.

So now you've begun please carry on & develop your unique creativity through practice & change - experiment & discovery

        GO TO Go to the index for encaustic art products OVERVIEW
Arts Encaustic Ltd, Glogue, Pembrokeshire SA36 0ED UK
  Tel: +44 (0)1239 831401